A contractor for the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government is scheduled to begin removing the memorial to Athens Confederate soldiers from downtown Athens beginning at 9 p.m. Monday.
The removal is expected to take several nights. Due to daily traffic volumes on this state route and the need of heavy equipment for the removal to block all four lanes of traffic on East Broad Street, the memorial will be removed during evening hours when East Broad Street can be fully closed to traffic. East Broad Street will be closed from Pulaski Street to Thomas Street with detours beginning Monday, August 10 from 9:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. Closures will continue nightly until the removal is complete. Side street closures and detours will be in place in the area as well for Hull Street, Lumpkin Street, College Avenue, Jackson Street, Mitchell Street, and Wall Street. College Avenue between East Clayton Street and East Broad Street will also be closed for equipment staging until the project is complete. The mayor and county commission approved the removal of the monument at their June 25 meeting. The removal of the monument will allow for the construction and expansion of the crosswalk at this location by five feet in order to accommodate 200-300 more pedestrians per hour more safely in the heavily trafficked area. The monument also serves as a visual impediment for vehicles and for pedestrians crossing East Broad Street. The county Transportation and Public Works Department already started on the crosswalk improvements, which require additional daytime and nighttime lane closures. The crosswalk project improvements are planned for temporary completion prior to the start of fall semester classes for the University of Georgia on Aug. 20, when pedestrian use of this intersection will increase dramatically. Final crosswalk improvements will take place later this fall. In addition to the crosswalk segment, the overall project includes a six-month pilot project to close College Avenue between East Clayton Street and East Broad Street adjacent to this area to vehicle traffic and temporarily convert it to a pedestrian plaza. At the end of the six-month project, the Mayor and Commission will consider whether to permanently close the block for use as a pedestrian plaza. The pilot project is expected to begin this fall. Once removed, the monument will be stored temporarily until placed in a new location this fall. The new location for the monument will be near Barber Creek, where the only Civil War skirmishes took place in Athens. The Ladies Memorial Association erected the memorial in 1871-1872 in memory of Confederate soldiers from Athens who died in the Civil War. Originally located in the center of the College Avenue and Washington Street intersection, it was moved to East Broad Street in 1912.
It became a focal point of local Black Lives Matter protests in the aftermath of the killing in May of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by police in Minneapolis, and similar recent officer-involved deaths of black people.
Local activists had called for the monument's removal because it stood for the oppression of Black Americans under the Confederacy.